The Funny Business of Parenting: Celebrate parental freedom
When a precious angel leaves home, it may become necessary to break out the champagne glasses and party favors. Such exuberance can occur when a child is safely deposited at a neighbor’s for a playdate or at college, a place far, far away where he’ll never again be able to leave crumbs all over the coffee table. (Sorry, I was lost in a fantasy.)
Oh, how nice to have some peace and quiet in the house and not have to behave like a grownup all the time.
But whether the kiddies are gone for a few hours or a few months, they may return to the nest in a somewhat altered state of mind and after the welcome home festivities, proceed to drive a parent up a wall.
This could happen, for example, after taking a whirl at a friend’s graphically violent video game, deemed off-limits to him by his own evil, joy-sucking parent (ummm...me). Said child may then spend a rather vexing amount of time begging and scheming for the opportunity to shoot people’s heads off in the comfort of his own home.
Such a scenario involves reteaching the little hellion the rules of the house, even though he may then talk about the perks of moving out and living on his own so he can play whatever games his little heart wants. A quick reminder about a detail like a well-paying job to pay for necessities like food and housing (which is challenging for a 9-year-old to acquire) nips that idea in the bud.
The way to possibly prevent all of this angst is to do some legwork before the child is out the door. Talk about your expectations for when they’re away and when they return. Speak to the parent whose home your children will be invading about what activities “work” for them. This is preferable to lecturing said parent about the dangers of trampolines, tasty snacks with red dye #40 and PG-13 rated movies. Also, give the grandparents slack to do some spoiling, and good luck to you if it becomes necessary to guide them with an opposing child-rearing view.
Fast forward to the time when the cool kids come home from college, after learning how to stay up all night and live on pizza and fries. Since they are now “adults,” as they will passionately proclaim as part of their ongoing PR campaign titled, #ICanDoWhateverIWantNow, reorienting them to civilized society in the home can be daunting.
Nevertheless, the seriously lame and occasionally annoying parents whom they are forced to room with are well within their rights to continue laying down certain laws, like the need for kids to call if plans change or if they’ll be out late, so we won’t drop dead from worry. (Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to use guilt as a weapon in parenting young adults.)
Above all, it’s helpful to keep in mind that while there may be rumblings of malcontent after what may have been a freewheeling time in paradise, once back home, they will hopefully realize how good they really have it.
Pam J. Hecht is a writer, instructor and mother of two (but not necessarily in that order). Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or pamjhecht.com.